The damage former Justice Seamus P. McCaffery did to the credibility of Pennsylvania's highest court by engaging in juvenile, if not illegal, conduct could be mitigated by his resignation - which, thankfully, he submitted Monday.
McCaffery - who recently dropped an unrelated defamation suit against the Inquirer and Daily News - apologized last week for sending more than 230 pornographic e-mails to associates over a nearly four-year period. But he tried to downplay his outrageous conduct as simply a lapse in judgment. That excuse may work for a teenager, but not for someone expected to be grounded enough to decide life-and-death cases.
It was not the e-mails alone, however, that led his fellow justices to suspend McCaffery while the state Judicial Conduct Board considers his behavior. He was also accused of having a traffic ticket fixed for his wife and weighing in on the handling of a case involving a law firm that paid her a referral fee and contributed to his campaign.
The relationship between McCaffery and Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille has been untenable for a while. Disputes concerning Philadelphia's new Family Court building and other matters devolved into personal hatred between the Marine veterans, with the combat-wounded Castille denigrating McCaffery for having never experienced battle.
A spokesman for McCaffery accused Castille of waging a "relentless crusade to destroy his career and reputation." Actually, though, McCaffery has only himself to blame. Just as he would admonish any inebriated defendant when he presided over "Eagles Court" at Veterans Stadium, he must accept responsibility for his actions.
Castille, in concurring with the decision to suspend McCaffery, likened the justice's tendency to blame others to the behavior of a "sociopath." He noted that McCaffery's pornographic e-mails "cost the careers of others and perhaps even several marriages." Worse, they "brought this court into enormous disrepute."